Buddy opened his eyes, turning quickly to see Murphy open his. The group dared not breathe as they waited to see the results of what had happened in the minds of these two powerful individuals.
“Five seconds to oxygen depletion.”
Murphy closed his eyes; an oval appeared in front of him, filled with swirling clouds. He swam through the zero-gravity environment to enter the oval. The rest of the group followed quickly. Buddy pulled Zero in behind him.
“This place,” Murphy said as he entered the purple void. “It looks so familiar.”
“So, you don’t remember everything?” Oscar asked. “Like who you are, for instance?”
“Of course I remember who I am,” Murphy scowled as he struck out at Oscar. “You’d do best to keep your distance, Red Rocketeer!”
“What happened, Buddy?” Ryan asked as they all backed away from Murphy/Memphis.
“Well,” Buddy stammered, “it looks like Damon might have been waiting for this moment to get out of my head. He’s in there. All of him.”
“Help me,” Murphy/Memphis cried out. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
“So, they’re both there?” Alexa asked. “Murphy and Memphis?”
“God you are so insufferable,” Murphy/Memphis spat as he turned, created a new oval, and escaped.
“We had better hurry,” Buddy said as he pulled Zero toward the opening. “Don’t want to get ourselves stuck in here without an exit.
On the other side of the void the group found themselves standing directly in front of the Sun City Convention Center once again. Murphy/Memphis was curled up in a ball on the ground at their feet, flames sputtering around him, burning holes in the grass.
“Well, that was a lot of work for nothing,” Ryan scowled. “We’re right back where we started.”
“But at least we’re still alive,” Oscar responded. “That’s something to be grateful for.”
“I think there’s plenty to be grateful for,” Talmadge spoke. “I mean, who knew I had super powers, right? Of course, now The Bumblebee seems like a pretty stupid name. It doesn’t really match my powers at all, does it? I’ll have to come up with something new, a new costume, I mean, there’s a whole lot of stuff for me to get done to prepare for being a real superhero. I probably won’t need all these gadgets anymore. Beastmaster? What do you think about that one?”
“What do we do about him?” Buddy asked as he gestured to the man who was writhing in apparent agony below them.
“Naw, Beastmaster sounds too much like a supervillain’s name. Maybe The Cryptid!”
“Murphy?” Alexa asked the man cautiously. “Are you okay?”
Murphy/Memphis turned toward the source of Alexa’s voice, a look of absolute terror on his face. “What have you done to me? My head, it burns. I–” He attempted to stand and fell to his knees. He lowered his face to the ground and grabbed his head.
“No,” Talmadge said, oblivious to what was occurring around him. “People would never get it. They’d probably think I was calling myself cryptic. Although… The Cryptic Cryptid does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
“Agent Murphy,” Oscar said, walking next to the man, “perhaps you should come back to my lab so I can run a few tests on you. The changes currently occurring within your body could be, well, I don’t really know what they could be. All the same, I think it would be best if we–”
“In what world do you believe I would eagerly come along with you?” Murphy/Memphis erupted, sparks flaring in the corners of his eyes. “I’m no fool. You may have rid yourselves of me once, but I assure you that foolishness will not happen again anytime soon.”
“Um,” Ryan said, backing away from the enraged man, “perhaps we should talk about all of this somewhere else. Somewhere, you know, where there are fewer people around to get injured.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, son of Oscar Reed. You’d like me to think you care about the safety of others. I know the truth. I know what this is about. And I will not stand for it any longer!” Murphy/Memphis burst into flames, but the flames sputtered around him, making it difficult for him to stay afloat. His suit burned slowly, the smell of singed tweed accompanying the sight. “Help,” he said weakly.
“Damon,” Oscar said slowly, “Murphy? Maybe we should take a second and–”
“You have had all the seconds you shall be allowed, Red Rocketeer,” Murphy/Memphis yelled. His aura of flame grew brighter around him. Flashing brilliantly, it struggled to continue its existence before it finally went out and he fell to the ground, unconscious.
“Well,” Buddy said after a moment of silence. “That could have gone worse.”
The figure of Memphis/Murphy exploded in a ball of fire.
“Umm…” Talmadge said, backing away slowly. “Is he supposed to do that?”
“I’m not certain there’s much precedent on this,” Oscar responded. “So, I couldn’t even begin to guess what he’s supposed to do.”
The perimeter of the bonfire that had at one time been Damon Memphis/Dennis Murphy grew, causing the rest of them to back away quickly as they spoke.
“Is there anything we can do?” Alexa asked. “It seems pretty dangerous to just let this fire keep getting bigger.”
“I’ve got the goo gun at home,” Ryan replied. “It should be able to douse the flames pretty easily.”
Krakakoom! The flames bellowed as their rate of growth increased.
“Not sure I’ll even be fast enough to get the goo gun before this gets out of hand,” Alexa responded. “What do we do?”
“We have to contain the fire, and fast,” Oscar replied nervously. “Lexy, dear, could you do one of your little tornado things around Memphis here and see if we can’t pull some of the oxygen away from him. Maybe that will help put the fire out.”
“Anything you say, Dad,” Alexa said right before she disappeared. A wind grew around the group as the fire blazed on.
“Ryan,” Oscar asked, “do you have anything that you can use for fire retardation?”
“Checking my systems now,” Ryan said as he fiddled with the device on his wrist.
“Okay, keep me updated,” Oscar had to yell now over the growing wind storm around them. A funnel appeared, causing the fire to be pulled upward into a fiery tornado. Krakakshk! The flames burst into the air and through the funnel, as another explosion occurred within the dangerous fireball which had once been Damon Memphis.
“I don’t know what you did, Buddy old pal,” Oscar responded to the situation, “but I think you’ve somehow managed to make Damon even more dangerous than before.”
“Okay,” Buddy yelled, “but what can I do to fix it? Do you think if I go in there and touch him again that I can take away the memories and bring Murphy back?”
“It might be worth a try,” Oscar replied as he looked off to the horizon,” but…”
“But what?” Buddy asked.
“But, that,” Oscar said, pointing to something in the distance. Buddy looked and saw a group of people flying through the sky in their direction. In the center, he could just barely make out the figure of Jeffrey Flores.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Three